WHERE: Ed Radice Sports Complex, 14720 Ed Radice Drive, Tampa.
RACE TIMES: The meet begins with the Class 4A girls at 8 a.m. followed by the 4A boys at 8:35. The A girls at 9:05 and A boys at 9:40 are next. The last four races will be the Class 2A girls at 10:10, the Class 2A boys at 10:45, the Class 3A girls at 11:15 and 3A boys at 11:50.
DEFENDING CHAMPS: Class 4A _ Spanish River girls, Winter Park boys; Class 3A _ Plant girls, Flagler Palm Coast boys; Class 2A _ Our Lady of Lourdes girls, Gulliver Prep boys; Class A _ Tallahassee Maclay girls, Tallahassee Maclay boys.
MEET NOTES: Play-by-play will be provided over loud speakers by Ricky Quintana, who will be perched atop a 50-foot lift with binoculars. He will have visibility of almost the entire course. This will be the first FHSAA state meet to utilize computer chips attached to runner's shoelaces to keep score. Sue Harmeling, the executive director of the Gasparilla Distance Classic, will be honored in an opening ceremony and act as honorary meet referee. The meet referee will be legendary Largo coach Brent Haley, who led the Packers to 10 state titles and six runner-up finishes. Haley will retire at the end of this school year after 40 years in the school system.
CLASS 4A GIRLS
St. Petersburg's Kerry Allen and Palm Harbor University's Rebekah Lindsey are the lone county participants. Allen was third at the region meet and showed she can run with the best. Her time of 18 minutes, 49 seconds should put her in the mix. Unlike the classification's other top runners, Allen hasn't run in any statewide meets this season, so how she handles a race with about 150 other runners will be key.
Lindsey is making her second straight trip to state after taking ninth in the region meet (19:56). Lindsey has quietly been a top-10 county runner all season and ran 21:05 at Ed Radice Park at the Pre-State meet.
CLASS 3A BOYS
Largo was hoping to be a contender by this time, but will have to settle for a middle-of-the-pack finish. The Packers are led by Brian McClymont, who ran 17:03 in the Pre-State meet. Expect he and Seminole's Ken Magee to duel. Magee ran 16:55 in the Pre-State meet, eight seconds ahead of McClymont, but the Packer junior was .83 of a second faster last week.
The Packers and Warhawks grabbed the final team spots last week and will have to better their overall performances if they have visions of top 10 finishes.
Boca Ciega's Brett Sapp is running as an individual.
CLASS 3A GIRLS
The Seminole and Largo girls are back after finishing fifth and 21st last year. The Warhawks have improved all season, and though they lack a front-runner, Lauren Vogel (fourth at region), Carly Stransky, Meagan Geisa, Madeline Parholo and Lindsey Walker finished within 1:15 of each other last week. The performance moved them up to No. 7 in the final state rankings, one spot ahead of Largo.
However, the Warhawks will have a hard time holding off the Packers again. Beaten by a county team for the first time this season, the Packers should rebound as long as they can stay healthy, which has been a problem lately. Abbey Hunter, 29th at state last season, could not run in the region meet because of an ankle injury. If she competes Saturday, and if Layla Hall, Deanna Drugash and Sara Bass run like they have, the Packers could give the top teams a scare.
Clearwater freshman Alexandria Lechner was 12th in the region, advancing to state as an individual.
CLASS 2A BOYS
Clearwater Central Catholic's Kevin Lyons won the region meet by more than a minute last week, but it meant little since Jesuit rival Andy Biladeau didn't run hard. Lyons should finally get his chance to chase down the Tigers star Saturday.
Lyons ran 15:54 in the region meet at Ed Radice Park. At the Pre-State meet on the same course, he ran 15:49. Pushed by Biladeau, the Marauders standout and 2001 All-County Runner of the Year, Lyons is likely to set a career-best time.
CLASS 2A GIRLS
The Clearwater Central Catholic girls advanced for the second straight year with the help of weak region competition. But Apryl Wall and Danielle Harris were third and fourth overall and give the Marauders a strong 1-2 tandem to better last year's 18th-place finish.
Osceola's Sarah Geigle qualified as an individual after finishing 13th in the region meet.
CLASS A BOYS
The strongest county contingent. The teams competing include Indian Rocks Christian, St. Petersburg Catholic, Keswick Christian, Admiral Farragut and Shorecrest after their 1-2-3-4-5 finish in the region meet.
The top three teams have gone back and forth all year. The Barons started the season ranked No. 2 in the state after finishing second in the state last season, but were passed by Indian Rocks and then Keswick at the district meet. But the Barons showed signs of life, finishing ahead of Keswick in the region and were one point behind the Eagles.
The race is for second, though, as Tallahassee Maclay is the favorite. The team that finishes as runner-up will be the one that gets the best performances out of its Nos. 4 and 5 runners, as each team's 1-2-3 are evenly matched.
The class of the district individually is John Biffar of Admiral Farragut, one of the state's top three runners. Close behind will be SPC's Tony Cormier, Indian Rocks' Nathan Holden and Keswick's William Werly.
CLASS A GIRLS
Indian Rocks freshman Melissa Kotchman is the next in a long line of great county private-school runners. She's also the county's best chance for a state title. In the 29 years girls have run cross country, five county runners have accounted for championships in 10 years.
Last year, Kotchman was third, ending a seven-year streak in which Pinellas produced the Class A or 2A champion. Last year's first- and second-place finishers graduated, though, so Kotchman should ascend to the throne and start a new streak.
She also leads the Eagles, who have great depth and youth with seventh-grader Brittany Kotchman, eighth-graders Amanda Montzka and Sarah Mayleben, and junior Rheannon Bagley.
The Shorecrest girls, led by the quartet of Cori Morris, Brittany Whitelock, Maggie Thompson and Pavendeep Birk, have been contenders all season and ran well at Pre-State.
Keswick's Amanda Miller and Kelly Matthew will compete as individuals.
_ JOHN C. COTEY, MIKE READLING